By Samantha Harvey
(Anchor, Paperback, 9780307454775, 384pp.)
Publication Date: April 6, 2010
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An Orange Prize Finalist
A Man Booker Prize Nominee
Winner of the 2009 Betty Trask Prize
A Guardian First Book Award Nominee
Jake is in the tailspin of old age. His wife has passed away, his son is in prison, and now he is about to lose his past to Alzheimer’s. As the disease takes hold of him, Jake’s memories become increasingly unreliable. What happened to his daughter? Is she alive, or long dead? Why is his son imprisoned? And why can’t he shake the memory of a yellow dress and one lonely, echoing gunshot?
Like Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead, The Wilderness holds us in its grip from the first sentence to the last with the sheer beauty of its language and its ruminations on love and loss.
Born in Kent, England, in 1975, Samantha Harvey has an M.A. in philosophy and an M.A., with distinction, from the Bath Spa Creative Writing course in 2005. In addition to writing, she has traveled extensively and taught in Japan and lived in Ireland and New Zealand. She recently cofounded an environmental charity. She lives in Bath, England.
- The Wilderness is written entirely from the viewpoint of a man suffering from Alzheimer's Disease. Through his illness, Jake confronts issues around making and losing memories, personal identity, the passing of time and relationships with others. Though this is all seen through the lens of Alzheimer's, to what degree is his experience universal?
“Closer to Virginia Woolf’s meditative novels than anything else I can think of. . . . This is . . . Mrs. Dalloway prose.” —Carolyn See, The Washington Post Book World
“[A] brave imagining of [Alzheimer’s]…. There are moments of clarity; there is the persistence of desire; there are enduring long-term memories that remain after there is no capacity to recall what was for breakfast or if there was breakfast or what the thing called breakfast is.” —The New York Times
“Harvey infuses the text with compassion. [The Wilderness] conveys the importance of dignity and respect for those we love, no matter what their affliction.” —Las Vegas Review-Journal
“A stunning composition of human fragility and intensity.” —The Guardian (London)
“The Wilderness is Samantha Harvey’s first novel, but it feels like a mature work, as well crafted and as cryptic . . . as an ancient boat found preserved in the peat of the northern-England moors where the book is mostly set.” —Bookforum
“A really exciting debut is as rare as it ever was. Samantha Harvey’s first novel is an extraordinary dramatization of a mind in the process of disintegration. . . . Brilliant.” —The Times (London)
“Very moving. . . . Touches a resounding chord of melancholy. . . . [Harvey] makes you realize that memory can never quite be trusted.” —The Scotsman
“A haunting, intelligent novel, crowded with powerful characters, told in a language that is never ordinary, but always clear and elegant.” —Tessa Hadley, author of The Master Bedroom and Sunstroke and Other Stories
“Raises intriguing queries about the nature of memory—why we remember what we do, and why we forget.” —Ottawa Citizen
“A brave and intelligent crafting of narrative . . . . A mesmerizing work of patient compassion, bearing Jake deep into the vortex.” —The Independent (London)